Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Bodyguard

Man on Fire
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke
Released: April 23, 2004

Here are three surprising things I learned while watching Man on Fire:

1. It is based on a novel (which looks like it was a series) from the early ‘80s by A.J. Quinnell. Based on what I heard about it, it is a bit different from the movie. I don’t want to spoil anything (and just to forewarn you, this movie will be spoiled), but there are characters that die in the novel that don’t  in the movie and vice versa. The novel takes place in Italy and the movie takes place in Mexico. The 2004 movie is not the first film that is based off the book; there was another Man on Fire movie that came out in 1987 and starred Scott Glenn as the main character. Interestingly, Tony Scott was supposed to direct, but being that this was still really early in his career, he didn’t get the job. Of course he would end up directing this version, which is the version most people are aware of, anyway.
2. Speaking of Tony Scott, I was really surprised when I found out that this was only the second movie he did with Denzel Washington. I knew they did a handful of movies together (they did five), but after they did their first movie, Crimson Tide in 1995, it would be nine years until they did Man on Fire, then the three others (Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable) all came pretty quickly after that. I guess I thought they did more movies in the ‘90s together, but nope.

3. And the third most surprising thing I learned is from the text that pops up on the screen at the very beginning: "There is one kidnapping every 60 minutes in Latin America." I accidentally read this as “60 seconds” at first, which really would’ve been quite shocking! As you can probably guess, this movie is about a kidnapping. The statistic goes on to say that 70% of the victims do not survive which is a little surprising since isn’t the only way the kidnappers make their money is to make sure they return the kidnapped person back alive? 

A wealthy couple, Lisa and Samuel Ramos (Radha Mitchell and Marc Anthony) living in Mexico City are looking for a bodyguard for their young daughter, Pita (Dakota Fanning). While Samuel is from Mexico City, Lisa is American (as well as white and blonde). There's no way that Pita (who is also white and blonde) is Samuel's biological daughter. They never mention it, but I assume he's her step-father. This makes sense because of their genetics and also makes sense for what will happen later on in the movie. The Ramos know because of their wealth, their daughter is a high target for being kidnapped. They hire John Creasy (Denzel Washington), an ex-Marine with an impressive resume; the only caveat is that he drinks. A lot. He tells this to Samuel, who tells him not to tell anyone he drinks, especially his wife. It should probably trigger a little warning about Samuel if he's wiling to hire an admitted alcoholic to be a bodyguard for his daughter. I would almost say that this movie is a prequel to Flight, you know, the movie where Denzel plays an alcoholic pilot, but, uh, that wouldn't work.

Instead of Pita getting kidnapped right away, the movie establishes their relationship and takes its time. When Creasy brings and picks up Pita at school, she is very chatty and wants to know about him. He sternly tells her, "I'm not here to be your friend; I'm your bodyguard." Mexico City is an extremely bustling city and he always has to be on the lookout for any suspicious cars, people, or activities. Pita, who doesn't seem to have friends her own age (I'm sure she does, we just never see them as they're probably not important to the story), is very hurt by this, but Creasy can't be bothered. The first few weeks is like that and we see him drinking and he even tries to kill himself with his gun one night when he's in his room, but the bullet gets wedged. (What is it with Denzel characters trying to kill themselves, but not getting the bullet? Remember, that also happened in John Q). 

Meanwhile, Samuel has bought a dog for Pita and she names it Sam (well, I can't remember if she named the dog or if her dad already named it, but either way, it's weird that the dog is named after Mr. Ramos). You think the dog might serve some kind of purpose later on in the movie - whether it will do a heroic deed and die or whether it will get in the crossfires and die. The dog does not die, but the last time we see him is right before Pita will get kidnapped and we won't see the dog again. So what was the point of the dog? 

Pita is involved in her school's swim team and one day while she's practicing in her pool, Creasy helps her and this is when they start to bond. He had seen her at a meet where she flinched at the gunshot when she was on the block ready to dive in and because of that didn't get a good head start. He uses two bricks to clang together to use in lieu of a gunshot and tells her, "The gunshot has no fear!" and tells her to repeat it until she believes it. His help makes her better at her swim meets.

Have I mentioned that Christopher Walken is in this movie? I don't think I have. He plays Creasy's friend, Paul, who knew him in his days as a Marine and now owns a security company in Mexico City where he lives with his family. I really thought it was going to be revealed that Paul was behind the whole thing, but instead he just serves as an asset for Creasy to help him find the kidnappers. 

Days before her kidnapping you know Pita and Creasy have gotten close because she gives him a little bear charm that opens and reveals a necklace of St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes (hmm, how appropriate!) and tells him she named it Creasy Bear. I should mention that Pita's parents are extremely religious. They have a shrine in their home that has many candles lit at every hour of the day which seems extremely dangerous. I'm surprised their house never burned down! 

Pita takes piano lessons even though she would much rather concentrate on her swimming. Creasy takes her to a lesson and tells her if she burps, then the instructor won't want to work with her anymore. While he waits for her outside, he's playing with the dog (who we will never see again) and becomes very suspicious when he sees a couple of police cars plus a suspicious car he had spotted earlier. I don't remember how many kidnappers there were, but there's a gunfight between them and Creasy and he kills four of them, including both of the police officers. When he sees Pita come out of her lesson looking scared, he tells her to run. She does, but then he is shot and she runs back to him, screaming and sobbing. This is when one of the kidnappers grab her and put her in his car. Creasy is taken to the hospital and is under arrest for the murder of the two policemen and is suspected of kidnapping Pita. Obviously there were corrupt cops involved in her kidnapping. 

At a press briefing, Maria, (Rachel Ticotin), a reporter for a newspaper called La Reforma asks why the two officers were in uniform when they were off duty at the time and why they happened to be there when the kidnapping happened. She finds Creasy (who left the hospital prematurely) and tells him she wants to infiltrate an orginization called Le Hermandad, which protects high-ranking government officials, corrupt police, and organized crime. She thinks he and Pita are victims of it.

While Creasy was in the hospital for two days, a ransom of ten million dollars was being negotiated. Samuel's lawyer, Jordan Kalfas (Mikey Rourke) gets the money from a kidnap and ransom insurance policy Samuel has (apparently that's a thing, but it makes sense to have it in a country where this kind of thing unfortunately happens a lot). Somehow things go wrong and the delivery is ambushed by Le Hermandad and they end up taking the money and killing the nephew of the man who made the arrangements for the money. I have to be honest: I wasn't really sure what was going on. This angers the man (who is only known as "The Voice", or, "La Voz" and he tells Samuel, because he messed up, he has killed Pita. Even watching this the first time back when it was released on DVD, I knew Pita wasn't really dead. At least I was 99% certain.

This sets Creasy off and he vows to Pita's mother that he will kill everyone that was involved with her kidnapping and (supposed) death. This is where Paul comes in and helps him find the information he needs. He starts by finding one of the men who took Pita and Creasy tortures him by cutting his fingers off one by one when he's not satisfied with the answers he's given. He is nice enough to give the guy something to stop the bleeding, so there's that...although it's a moot point since he kills the guy anyway. The kidnapper just gives him the information that the guy who ordered him to take Pita goes by "The Voice". 

His lead takes him to a nightclub where he finds a twelve-year-old girl who was kidnapped the previous night so he knows there's a kidnapping ring operating there. He obtains a money card and he's trying to find the PIN. This scene drove me CRAZY because five different characters refer to it as the "PIN number". Aurgh!! :::tears out hair::: You don't say "PIN number" because it's redundant! It's like when people say "I'm going to the ATM machine." Dumbasses. I think the only person who refers to it the right way is Maria, but only the second time. She is also guilty of saying "PIN number".

So Creasy kills a lot of bad people along the way, but one guy gets a particularly nasty death. He's one of the more higher-ups of the kidnapping ring, thus the reason he gets such a gruesome death. In a nutshell, what happens, is that Creasy knocks him out and when he comes to a bit later, he and Creasy are under a bride in a secluded area and Creasy tells him he has a bomb up his you-know-what. That means that Creasy had to insert the bomb...ewww, so glad we didn't see that part! I also hope he was wearing gloves and scrubbed his hands thoroughly afterwards, cuz, yuck! He tells him he has a timer set for five minutes and when it's done the bomb will go off. It is implied that if the guy tells him what he needs to know, he will diffuse the bomb. For the first few minutes, the guy doesn't talk, but when it starts to dwindle down to the last couple minutes, he confesses some interesting information to Creasy. Of course we know Creasy isn't going to save the guy. The most Denzeliest line in the movie is in this scene where he tells him, "I've  got all the time in the world - you don't, but I do."

The interesting information he had found out was that Jordan Kalfus, Ramos's lawyer was involved. When he goes to confront Kalfus at his house, he finds him dead in his pool. Then he goes to confront Pita's parents, asking them if they had anything to do with it. Lisa is screaming and crying at her husband, asking him why Creasy would be asking them that. Samuel confesses he did it as a plan to get the insurance money to pay off a gambling debt. He tells Lisa that it was just supposed to be for a couple days and that Pita would be eating ice cream and watching cartoons the entire time. Yeah, this guy is a real scumbag. It was probably best for everyone when he offed himself. He was the one who had killed his lawyer.

Creasy gets more information about The Voice, who real name is Daniel Sanchez, at least enough to find his brother and his pregnant wife, both of whom he takes hostage. He is able to call The Voice, who offers him money, but he tells him he does not want his money and as he says this, he shoots the brother's hand clean off. This is when it is revealed Pita is still alive. He tells Creasy he will give a life for a life. He will give back Pita in exchange for his brother. Even though the kidnapper says the girl is worth more to him alive than dead, Creasy doesn't believe him and wants him to ask Pita what her bear's name is. When Daniel calls back with the right answer, Creasy Bear, he knows she is alive. Either that or it was an extremely lucky guess!
She will always love him

Creasy calls Lisa to tell her Pita is still alive and where to meet him to make the trade. I have to wonder if Lisa feels a little guilty that Samuel is dead now. He killed himself because he thought what he had done had killed his daughter. But his ass would be in jail; it was either death or prison for him. There's no way that he's staying married to Lisa and while Pita didn't die, she definitely wasn't watching cartoons and eating ice cream. I'm not entirely sure how long Pita was kidnapped. Maybe three or four days? We really never see her (obviously because they want us to think she's dead), but it is implied she's been in this dark dungeon setting. He meets Lisa at the secluded spot where the exchange will go down. He has the kidnapper's brother with him and gives Lisa a shotgun, telling her to shoot him in the head if anything goes wrong and not to let him go until Pita is with her. It's a very sweet moment when he goes to get Pita and she's hugging him and crying. I love it when she says, "I love you, Creasy, and you love me too, don't you?" I guess that's one way to get someone to say they love you, because what can you say to that?" Creasy replies that he does "with all my heart." I won't lie; this scene had me SOBBING, stupid manipulative movie. I mean, this movie isn't that good...not gonna lie. It's fine, but it's a bit overdramatic and violent at times. Pretty much all the time. So Pita runs to her mother and Lisa releases the one-hand man. What I don't get is that Creasy gets in the car with the kidnappers and leaves with them. I guess the only way for this movie to end is to have Creasy die. Maybe Denzel didn't want to do a sequel? I think he's only done one sequel in his entire career, so maybe that was the deal? He would only do the movie if his character died so he didn't have to make any more? I guess in the book, Creasy lives (which makes sense because it IS a series), but the girl dies. Now THAT'S dark.

The last moment we see of Creasy is him holding his St. Jude pendant, the one Pita gave him. We get an epitaph for him on screen, January 4, 1956-December 16, 2003.  Wow, so it was around Christmas when all this was happening!

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